Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On My Soapbox: the Kerr County Museum

Recently my friend Mark J. Armstrong, managing editor of this newspaper, wrote a column calling for a Kerr County history museum, and suggesting it should be named in honor of the late Clarabelle Snodgrass. Both ideas are great.
Armstrong is not the first editor of the Times to support such an idea, and I'm not sure why the idea has never gotten off of the ground.
"Boost the Kerr County Museum Collection," was the headline another editor once wrote. "Valuable historic relics have been collected by the museum club of the ... junior high school, under the leadership of Mrs. R. A. Franklin. Most museums have grown from a small nucleus, and there is no reason why this should not. If you have some article of historic value, send it to [us]. Windows showing part of the museum club's collection are now on display at the Arcadia, and additions to the collection will be made from time to time. We should keep alive the memory ... of the pioneers of Kerr County and our section of the state. A museum will help do that!"
The editor was named J. J. Starkey; the words were published in the Kerrville Times in January, 1933.
I can only imagine what they'd collected in 1933.
For many years I have collected local items of historical interest. The majority of my collection dates from 1956 to present. A smaller portion from 1900-1956. And an even smaller collection from before 1900.
The items collected in 1933 would have likely been mostly from the 19th century.   And they've disappeared into the river of time.
Starkey published a monthly insert in his newspaper, "Pioneer History." He worked hard to promote the idea of a Kerr County history museum, even resorting to appealing to our community's pride, by comparing our lack of a museum with the success of our neighboring cities.
"As citizens of Kerrville," he wrote in a 3/4 page ad, "we congratulate J. Marvin Hunter on the accomplishment of a long cherished purpose in the building of the Frontier Times Museum at Bandera, Texas. It is hoped that Kerr County may soon possess a similar monument to its own pioneers. The beginnings of a museum display have been made here, and we urge all to cooperate in building it up." This ad appeared in May, 1933.
In December, 1933, the Times ran a front-page story "Pioneers Plan County Museum...." The story told of the 'Pioneers of Kerr County,' who, in their regular quarterly meeting, "voted to actively begin the Kerr County Museum, which the organization has been contemplating for the past five years."
Interestingly, the secretary of the organization, Bert Parsons, offered one of the rooms in his home on Water Street to display some of the items. Well, interesting to me, since my family now owns some of the Parsons property, and our print shop sits on part of that tract. Most of my collection of Kerr County historical items is housed in our print shop, so this is the second time 'historical items' have been on display at this spot.
As for the items collected by the junior high students of Mrs. R. A. (Kate) Franklin, it's a mystery what happened to them. It's rumored some of the items were thrown away.
In September, 1940, Mrs. W. A. Salter, the editor and publisher of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, wrote these lines in her 'It Happened Here' column:
"It is regretted that the Texas History and Pioneer Museum which Kate [Franklin] started while she was [a teacher] here, and with which she had such wonderful co-operation, has never been quite completed. It would certainly be an addition to the school and community, and old timers would part with historical objects if they were sure that the treasures had a proper home."
I understand that sentiment completely.
Gentle Reader, next week I turn 55. I'm getting to be one of those old timers. As I look at the thousands of items in my collection, I know I need to find them a home. A proper home. But so far none of the suggested organizations have demonstrated the ability (or desire) to provide a safe place to exhibit and preserve these items of our history. Just as they did not in the 1930s, or in the decades since.
I don't know why our community lacks a museum. I have pondered the problem for a long time. Perhaps one of you has a good idea that will help.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical items.  Lots of them. Some of the items are on display at the Museum of Western Art through August 27. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 20, 2016.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Just wow. Oh the lost items from 1933...tragic!! Just what would it take?? Any grant writing wizards who could propose to the Peterson or Callioux Foundations? Just ideas, and I have no clue what may or may not have been tried in the past.


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